Talk-radio host Glenn Beck took a shot at Philadelphia on the air Tuesday, calling the area around Independence Hall "the killing streets" and proclaiming that the city was "not a place you want to be."
The remarks irked city officials. Mayor Nutter's spokesman told The Inquirer that Beck was suffering from a case of "verb-arrhea." Philadelphia Police Lt. Ray Evers called Beck "misinformed." The historic district, Evers said, "is actually one of the safest parts of the city, if not the country, with the number of law enforcement. Who listens to him, anyway?"
Beck's crime talk, coming the day after he lost his Philadelphia radio station, seemed to come out of nowhere. He was chatting on his syndicated program with his executive producer, Steve "Stu" Burguiere, about police layoffs in Camden, and the topic of conversation veered across the Delaware.
When Burguiere disagreed with Beck's assessment of crime in Center City, Beck challenged him to wear a hidden camera and walk downtown at "6, 7 o'clock at night." Burguiere said he had done that many times, since he lives in the region.
When Beck pressed Burguiere, the producer conceded that there were dodgy areas north and south of Center City but he defended the downtown.
"Don't listen to Stu," Beck said. "Philadelphia sucks."
Burguiere laughed heartily.
The program was not heard over the air in Philadelphia. Beck's last Philadelphia show aired Monday on WPHT-AM (1210), which dropped his show, as well as that of Sean Hannity, as it said it was moving toward a local lineup.
Ed Palladino, WPHT's program director, said he did not think Beck's ad hominem about Philadelphia was related to his being dropped. Beck now has no radio outlet here.
Beck moved to Philadelphia from Tampa, Fla., in 2002 when WPHT became the flagship station for a syndication deal that widely expanded his audience. Beck left Philadelphia in 2006 and added a TV career that includes Fox News Channel.
Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald, who said the city administration had been making substantial headway on crime since 2007, said, "A shock jock like Beck, who is paid to open his pie hole for anything that pops into his head, should be taken with a grain of salt, I think."
Meryl Levitz, president and chief executive of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp., said: "Clearly it is a case of sour grapes and nothing more."